This article was originally published on goerie.com on August 14, 2017.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A man accused of ramming his car into a crowd of counter-protesters at a white nationalist rally in Virginia was denied bond Monday after the public defender’s office said it couldn’t represent him and the judge was forced to find a local attorney to fill in.
James Alex Fields Jr. was not present in the courtroom but appeared via video monitor dressed in a black-and-white striped uniform. Seated, he answered questions from the judge with simple responses of “Yes, sir” when asked if he understood what was being explained to him. Fields also replied “No, sir” when asked if he had ties to the community of Charlottesville.
Judge Robert Downer set an Aug. 25 hearing for the 20-year-old Fields, who has been charged with second-degree murder and other counts.
Downer said the public defenders’ office informed him it could not represent Fields because a relative of someone in the office was injured in Saturday’s protest. He appointed local attorney Charles Weber to represent him. Weber couldn’t immediately be reached by The Associated Press.
Fields is charged in the death of Heather Heyer, 32, of Charlottesville, who died after a car that police say Fields was driving slammed into a crowd of people protesting the nationalist rally Saturday. Fields was arrested shortly afterward and taken into custody.
Fields was fascinated with Nazism, idolized Adolf Hitler, and had been singled out by school officials in the 9th grade for his “deeply held, radical” convictions on race, a former high school teacher said Sunday. Fields also confided that he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was younger and had been prescribed an anti-psychotic medication, Derek Weimer said in an interview with The Associated Press.
In high school, Fields was an “average” student, but with a keen interest in military history, Hitler, and Nazi Germany, said Weimer, who said he was Fields’ social studies teacher at Randall K. Cooper high school in Union, Kentucky, in Fields’ junior and senior years.